Where does Iowa fit in this year’s bowl picture?


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The final two games on the Hawkeyes’ docket serves as an opportunity for the team to seriously alter the postseason landscape.

Given bowl games’ conference tie-ins, predicting where a team will play in the postseason is a doable — albeit inexact — science. Currently, based solely on record and standing, the Black and Gold would fill the Big Ten’s sixth-place position in the postseason. That would mean a trip to the Texas Bowl on Dec. 27.

But with games remaining against Michigan and Nebraska, a lot is left to be decided. The Hawkeyes are expected to finish anywhere between fifth and seventh in the conference, which has left even the experts confused as to where Iowa will end up.

“If Michigan continues to struggle and Iowa can get them next week, then you go to Lincoln with maybe a chance to win that one, too — that could dramatically change the picture,” said Adam Rittenberg, ESPN.com’s Big Ten reporter.

In all likelihood, the Hawkeyes will find themselves in the Texas Bowl, Heart of Dallas Bowl, or Gator Bowl. The Gator Bowl is the most prominent of the three, followed by the Texas and Heart of Dallas Bowls.

What could be the deciding factor, aside from records and conference standing, is the perception of fan bases and how well they would travel to bowl destinations. That, Rittenberg said, could help Iowa receive a better bid than it deserves.

“[The fan base] affects it a lot when the committee’s deciding between two fairly comparable teams,” he said. “It’s been a bigger factor sometimes than head-to-head matchups.”

“And just in talking to bowl people, you know who has a good reputation and who doesn’t. Minnesota, for example, is going to be fighting that big time this year. I’ve been told by numerous people that they’re the worst traveling fan base in the conference.

“What they’re going to have to sell is, ‘Hey, we haven’t been to a good bowl in a while, our fans are excited, we’ll travel.’ But their fans are fighting the perception that Iowa doesn’t have to fight, Wisconsin doesn’t have to fight. Ohio State and Michigan, they don’t have to fight that kind of perception.”

What could also dramatically affect the eventual schedule is whether the Big Ten receives one or two BCS bowl bids. It’s expected that the winner of the Big Ten championship will play in the Rose Bowl. But after that, teams such as Michigan State and Wisconsin — given that Ohio State wins the conference — are both viable options to receive at-large bids to BCS games.

If one of those two teams does receive a bid, it would slot everyone else in the conference up a place, making it more difficult for Big Ten teams to win those games because of the strength of competition.

The Big Ten hasn’t necessarily had the best track record of success in postseason play in recent years. Last year, the conference was just 2-5 in bowls. The conference would obviously like to have a better showing this year, but Rittenberg noted that will depend on how the selection works out.

“It all depends on whether there are either just one BCS entries or two. If there’s just one, it’s the Rose Bowl,” Rittenberg said. “Where you could fall into trouble — and the reason why the Big Ten has had such trouble and a poor bowl record recently — is when you have numerous teams in BCS games, it moves everybody else up. And then you’re left with some matchups that aren’t very equal.”

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